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antibiotic resistance
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The Rise in Antibiotic Resistance

More than 70 years ago, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and set in motion a medical revolution. In 1943, penicillin was mass-produced and saved many wounded soldiers from death by bacterial infection. Yet even as we enjoy the benefits of antibiotics, their use promotes antibiotic resistance in bacteria. By confronting bacteria with antibiotics, we select for those that are resistant and change the course of their evolution. In fact, just three years after the first mass-production of penicillin, resistant bacteria began to appear. View the animation to learn more about the rise in antibiotic resistance.

  • Humans have had a powerful impact on antibiotic resistance in bacteria, pesticide resistance in insects, and other adaptations of living organisms in response to our activities. For insight into "Humans as the World's Greatest Evolutionary Force," go to the Science article. [Note that you will need a subscription to Science to read beyond the summary.]
  • The Union for Concerned Scientists is working to curb the amount of antibiotics used in livestock. To learn more about this topic, go to their article.
  • The National Institutes of Health publishes a fact sheet on antibiotic resistance, describing the scope of the problem and the general approach to combating it. Go to article...